AG Ellison to investigate businesses at deadly North Mpls intersection

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a civil investigation Thursday into Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas Station in Minneapolis after they've had repeated violent crimes happen in front of their businesses.

The investigation aims to see whether the businesses are taking any steps to address the repeated violent crime occurring outside their buildings or if they're turning a blind eye. Within the last week or so, eight people were shot in the area, which was left riddled with bullets.

"I’m using the power of my office to take new approaches to stemming the epidemic of gun violence. Like we have done to keep tenants safe from problem property-owners, we are applying the law in ways it’s not commonly been applied before to solve persistent problems and keep people safe," Ellison said in a press release Thursday. "Companies or properties that turn a blind eye to gun violence and other threats to public safety happening on their premises need to know we are watching and will act."

The Attorney General's announcement comes one day after FOX 9's Karen Scullin met with Sanctuary Covenant Church, which is located across the street from the two businesses, and started a petition for support to have the city look into the businesses after they say the shootings and drug use are worse than ever. 

RELATED: Church says violence at dangerous Minneapolis intersection is worse than ever

"We are at a place now where the violence is continuing to escalate while at the same time the owners of the two businesses, the liquor store, and the gas station, they seem uninterested in doing anything more than just making money," said Sanctuary Covenant Church Pastor Edrin Williams.

The church said it has yet to receive help from the violence interrupters with the city's Office of Violence Prevention.

"I have made inquiries as to why, or the violence interrupters have not been visible at our corner and I have not received a satisfactory answer," said Andrea Lee with Sanctuary Covenant Church.

With help from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office and local law enforcement, the Attorney General intends to see if Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas Station are "maintaining or permitting unlawful public nuisance activity on their properties" or taking steps to address the problem, the press release states. 

People who have seen unlawful behavior at these locations are encouraged to call the Attorney General's Office at 651-296-3353 or fill out a form online. 

Merwin responds

Merwin Liquors ownership told FOX 9 in a statement Thursday "Merwin Liquors Minneapolis is excited to announce our new partnership with We Push For Peace, a Minneapolis based nonprofit organization. We Push For Peace will assume all staffing, security and community engagement responsibilities at the store located at 700 West Broadway. We Push For Peace will also maintain an office presence within the building. A unique partnership, Merwin Liquors Minneapolis and We Push For Peace are determined to re-establish safety at what was once a beacon of commerce in North Minneapolis and the West Broadway corridor."

Merwin Liquors leadership added they used to have off-duty Minneapolis police officers in their parking lot and store, but after the death of George Floyd, they were told by the MPD their officers were no longer available. 

The store's ownership believes the partnership with We Push For Peace will help make real changes.